Collection Specialist Job Description

Collection specialists or collections specialists are primarily responsible for contacting those who have defaulted on debt payments in an attempt to satisfy those debts. They reach out to customers via phone calls or emails in an attempt to discuss the debt owed and methods by which it can be paid. Collection specialists are also responsible for maintaining records of collection efforts, discussing payment options with outside agencies, updating borrowers’ information and account status, granting time extensions within reason, approving partial payments, and communicating with insurance agencies, attorneys, and other professionals.

Collection specialists work primarily for debt collecting firms or in accounts receivable departments. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a projected 3 percent decline in this profession between 2016-2026. Automated systems and outsourcing practices are cited as main factors in this decline.


Collection Specialist Duties and Responsibilities

In their daily work, collection specialists must complete several tasks to meet job demands. After examining several job listings, we have the found the following to be among the most commonly discussed for this occupation:

Call Delinquent Customers to Collect Debt

In their main role, collection specialists contact customers who have stopped making payments on their debt in order to discuss methods for satisfying that debt. They use phone calls and emails to contact these customers to provide details about the amount of debt owed, penalties, and payment options. They must also maintain accurate records regarding dates and times of contact and customer account status.

Arrange Payment Options

Once a customer has been contacted and is willing to discuss their debt payments, a collection specialist describes various options and plans available to the customer. This can involve working with accounting managers to create individual plans and talking with lawyers, insurance agents, and other parties.

Approve Payments and Extensions

Collection specialists often have the authority to approve partial or other payment arrangements made by customers on their delinquent accounts. They can also approve time extensions on late payments and negotiate payment of late fees, fines, and other charges.


Collection Specialist Skills

Success in this role depends on the ability of a collection specialist to display strong communication, customer service, and negotiation skills. Collection specialists should be able to work independently, make quick decisions, and adhere to schedules. In addition, collection specialist should have above-average listening skills and be empathetic toward those who relate stories of personal and financial difficulties. Other traits that hiring managers look for include:

  • Displaying excellent problem-solving, time-management, organizational, and math skills
  • Maintaining customer account status information and contact documentation
  • Respecting customers’ privacy and treating them with empathy
  • Communicating with people from all walks of life


Collection Specialist Tools of the Trade

Collection specialists need to utilize a few tools in order to complete their daily tasks. If you wish to become a collection specialist, you must have an understanding of the following:

  • Accounting software – it can be helpful for collection specialists to utilize accounting software when discussing delinquent accounts, applying payments, or arranging partial payments
  • Banking and lending concepts – it is sometimes necessary for collection specialists to draw on knowledge of banking and lending practices when making payment arrangements or schedules
  • Microsoft Office applications – collection specialists typically use Microsoft Word, Outlook, and Excel on a daily basis and should have a strong understanding of these applications


Collection Specialist Education and Training

While no formal degree or education is required to become a collection specialist, there are some training requirements that must be satisfied. Company-led training must usually be completed regarding the use of necessary software; collection specialists should also be trained in federal- and state debt collection laws and regulations. Several voluntary designations are available in this field, including professional collection specialist (PCS), credit and collection compliance officer (CCCO), and professional collection management (PCM).


Collection Specialist Salary

The BLS reports that collection specialists earn a median annual salary of $35,350. In the 10th percentile, these professionals earn $23,610 and in the top ten percent, $54,970. Collection specialists working for debt collection companies typically realize the highest salaries. Geographically, the highest mean annual salaries for collection specialists are seen in District of Columbia ($61,250), Connecticut ($44,820), and Massachusetts ($44,280). California ($43,460) and Alaska ($43,420) round out the top five states for collection specialist wages.


Collection Specialist Resources

To learn more about what it takes to become a collection specialist, follow links to blogs, books, professional organizations and more in the list below:

Association of Registrars and Collection Specialists (ARCS) – From professional development to networking opportunities, ARCS has been providing support to collection specialists since 1977, though its roots can be traced back to the 19th century. ARCS also hosts workshops, conferences, and educational webinars.

Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA – International) – Established in 1939, ACA – International provides more than 230,000 professionals with educational and training seminars and webinars and is heavily involved in advocacy activities.

InsideARM – This website for professional collection specialists provides detailed information about debt collection laws and regulations and trends in the field. Also contains links to webinars, conferences, and forums.

COLLECTMore – Filled with tips and discussions about professional practices, this blog offers articles about everything from partial payment plans to collection specialist roles.

The Kaplan Group Blog – This insightful blog provides articles about best practices, professional strategies, client care, and more.

The Debt Collection Industry is Calling: An Introduction to Your Career – This book follows the career path of a professional collection specialist and provides useful information for anyone considering or just beginning in this occupation.

Debt Collection Simplified – Get a detailed look at the realities of this career with this book, which recounts the personal stories of a certified professional collection specialist.


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